Friday November 30, 2012

CHRIS MAYS

Brattleboro Reformer

PUTNEY -- Generations of children have had their pictures taken with the Purple Plum Man.

"My friend came as a kid and we saw online that Santa’s Land is back," said, Mariel Butera, of Londonderry, who was bringing her children into the park last weekend.

Santa’s Land, a Christmas-based theme park, opened on Thanksgiving and stayed open all weekend. The park will be open every Saturday and Sunday leading up to Christmas.

It has been a part of many people’s childhood memories. The park has been been in operation for 55 years.

With the recession and the economy being down, Santa’s Land wasn’t supposed to open this year. Until a generous benefactor came along and donated enough to get it open, the park was in danger of closing down for good.

"We’re trying to do everything possible to keep the park open and the final decision will most likely be made at the end of the season, whether or not the park will continue," said Tim Wells, owner of Santa’s Land. "We have a lot of volunteers and a lot of people supporting the park. We look forward to a good Christmas season."

Volunteers said opening weekend attracted many visitors. The parking lot was said to have been so full that people were driving around waiting for an empty parking space.

Arthur Bailey, 93, has been playing Santa for quite some time.


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"The paper said it’s been 21 years," he said, as children visited him and sat on his lap.

Bailey sits on his chair starting when the park opens at 10 a.m. until the park closes at 4 p.m.. He is closer to the top of the hill, where there is a nature trail to walk on.

Just before the children get to Santa, there is the Elf House. A man from Connecticut came with his sewing machine and helped re-decorate the display. He made brand new elf boots, put in battery-powered candles and adorned the small building with new furniture. This man was a member of the Elf Cleanup Crew, which has been partly organized through efforts on the Internet.

There is a "Save Our Santa’s Land" Facebook page for those interested in keeping the theme-park open, where volunteers posted information regarding how others can join the cause.

Another Facebook page called "Save Santa’s Land" is more information-based, containing articles and messages of memories. People post pictures from when they were children visiting the park as well. There are pictures anywhere from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Now that enough attention has been brought to the theme park’s financial struggles, people who had heard that it was going to shut down have donated when they visit. People are banding together to make sure it doesn’t close down.

Volunteers keep the place running along with owners, Tim and Leslie Wells. Helpers have come from other places besides Vermont, such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

"The response has been beyond tremendous," an anonymous volunteer from Massachusetts said. "The support has been fantastic."

She plans to volunteer for the rest of the time that the park is open. She also said that it took the park about three weeks to get ready. Because of Hurricane Sandy, pine needles and trees had made a mess of the park, which already needed cleaning up.

The park has offered many attractions besides meeting Santa Claus and visiting the Elf House.

Santa’s Schoolhouse is another part of the 41-acre park where the children can watch Christmas movies like "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" while coloring. The pictures are then posted to the wall and are to be delivered to Santa himself.

There is a reindeer park and plenty of animals to see, including goats, emus and llamas.

A train comes through every few minutes to the train station, which has a wood-burning stove. The train takes riders all around the park. Other rides at Santa’s Land include a carousel, boats, cars and a mushroom ride. There is a park with swings in it and a big pink slide.